An alarming trend along the U.S.-Mexico border has escalated within the last year: the inhumane practice of separating immigrant children from their parents at the hands of U.S. immigration officials. Not only is this practice deeply traumatic for the families involved, it flies in the face of established U.S. and international law.
In response to this grave violation, the American Immigration Council, in collaboration with the Women’s Refugee Commission and several other immigration rights organizations, filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), demanding an investigation into this uptick in family separation.
The complaint lifts up a representative sample of cases in which children have been separated from their asylum-seeking family members at the border, including several instances in which a family member has been separated so that the government can prosecute them for felony illegal re-entry. These cases also include fathers whose toddlers have been taken from them and placed in children’s shelters, separation that triggers child welfare proceedings because the parent cannot care for the child while detained. Others involve people who are separated from critically ill spouses, only to be released after the spouse died.
The prosecution of asylum seekers has already been identified by the DHS OIG as a practice that may violate U.S. obligations under international law. Prosecutions which take place before an asylum seeker has completed—or even had an opportunity to start—the process of applying for asylum may result in deterring asylum seekers from attempting to seek humanitarian protections in the United States.
The alarming increase in families being forcibly divided is the latest in a series of attacks on immigrant families and contradicts statements made by former Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly in March 2017, who claimed that DHS would not separate families unless a child was in danger.
By Katie Shepherd for IMMIGRATION IMPACT
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